A Hame Tae Caw Oor Ain

IMG_0327Hame is whaur the hert bides, but that needs a hoose argues Derrick McGuire.

Hae ye ever walked up an tried tae open a door in yer hoose, an found that the handle’s on the ither side tae the wan ye reached for? Or did ye ever forget whaur the licht switch is in the lavvy when ye wake up burstin for a pee? Naw? Dae ye umm an ahh when somebody asks, as they often dae, say, in a shop, “whits yer postcode?”

Hoo aboot yer cutlery? Dae ye aye mind whit particular drawer in the scullery ye keep it in? I dinnae. Noo bein in ma fifties, ye micht think this is jist doon tae the kind o doited forgetfulness that normally accompanies the agein process. I ken ma bairns dae -“Yer gettin worse ya dozy auld goat” An they’re no faur wrang, but they’re no richt either ’cause thir are problems onybody wad struggle wi if, like us, ye’d had five different addresses in the same nummer o years. Ye see, jist like thoosans o ither faimilies, me an mine noo live at the no sae tender mercies ae whits loftily referred tae as the Private Rented Housing Sector.

Nearly 5 years hae passed since thon unforgettable (tho Goad kens A’ve tried) day, at the worst ae the recession,when we were left wi nae ither option but tae gie up oor hoose.

Noo while nae mansion, it wis oor hame. A modest 3 bed semi wi a conservatory we loved tae breakfast in at weekends. I’ve wrocht in the buildin gemme aw ma days so I’d built raised deckin oot the back for simmer barbecues an faimly get-thegithers. I’d landscaped the back gairden wi a bonny circle patio an windin paths doon tae ma shed an greenhoose. Nae airs or graces but we’d got tae the pynt whaur nae mair did we lang for oor foreign holidays tae never end,  for we kent we’d be comin back tae the place we loved, that we’d worked sae hard at makin oor hame.

Forgie me for dwellin, but see noo, it’s as if aw that never happened. No efter the endurance ae the last few years. An that’s whit I want tae talk aboot. When it happened, we first spoke tae the cooncil, but they wernae able tae help us much. Budget cuts, depleted hoosin stock as weel as hunners o cases faur mair pressin than oorsels meant that the best they could offer was B&B for me & ma wife,  an a place in a hostel for ma laddie. Afore I go ony further, I ken fine that for a lot o folk, offers like this are a lifeline, somehing that maks the difference atween survivin an gaun unner.

It wis never gonnae dae us tho, an bein fortunate enough still tae be in wark, we managed tae finnd a place we could move intae, at short notice.So, eftir stumpin up the months deposit and the agency fees in advance, sellin maist o oor furniture (for pennies) cos the new place wisnae hauf the size o “oor” hoose, we moved in wi a six month initial lease. Near the end o this period, the young schuilteacher wha owned an was rentin oot the property arranged tae come & “discuss” the lease as is the norm wi a private let. We thocht it wid be a formality o extendin it for anither negotiated length o time but oh how wrang we were. In she came an ye could tell somehing wis up wi the look on her face straight away. “I’m ready to move back in” she said. We’d been telt by neebors that the only reason the place was put up for rent in the first place was she’d fell oot wi her bidie-in an couldnae afford the mortgage on her ain, but this wes the last thing we were expectin. It wis five weeks afore christmas anaw.

In the blink o an ee, we were back tae square wan. While awbdy else we kent wis gettin ready for their festive break, we were trawlin the streets luikin for a roof tae pit ower oor heids. I dinnae hae the words tae convey the despair, at ma age, that overwhelms ye when thats the haun ye’re dealt. It pits the sicht o sae mony puir sowls sleepin rough in a new an frichtsome perspective. Noo I ken there’s guid landlords oot there anaw, but that first experience o oors is onyhing but rare. If ye care tae look, there’s some real horror-stories oot there. Wan hoose we rented aff an ex-polisman  wha we had tae tak tae coort when he tried tae skedaddle wi oor deposit!

Anither common problem wi private lets is whit happens when somehing goes wrang? Ye’ve nae Emergency 24 hour helpline scramblin on-call tradesmen when yer wan man landlord’s busy in his Karaoke Bar in Cyprus. Wi nuhing but a mobile phone number, ye jist hae tae hope ye can get a haud ae him. If ye dinnae, when he finally picks up yer anxious veicemail aboot the broken mixertap, it micht tak him a few days tae organise a plumber an ye micht hae tae gan the fortnicht we did athoot ony hot water in the scullery sink

The Private Rented Housing Sector is an amateurish, puirly regulated free-for-aw that disnae, cannae ever foster security and stabeility in yer ain hame. It can never become what wes tint when Thatcher’s richt-tae-buy strippit nearly aw the hooses ye noo see up for rent oot o cooncil hauns an that, tae me, is the mistake we as a society, a community, desperately need tae pit richt.

I ken it sounds baith radical an auldfarrant at the same time, but I believe we need nuhing less than the kinna mass social hoosin programme we seen eftir the Saicont Warld War tae restore the cooncil hoosin stock back tae a pynt whaur it’s better able tae thole an cope like it uised tae. This wad return some muckle-missed pride in local communities and gie the buildin trade a welcome boost anaw… but I’m no shuir the politeicians agree.

Whenever hoosin is mentioned, the talk noo is aw aboot “Affordable Homes”. First time buyers should get grants, they say, tae help them wi deposits. “Help to buy” schemes soond great but are they really? Naebody’s actually said “tae hang wi the effect on hoose prices in general o haundin folk thoosans tae help them buy ane” so A’m assumin that’s taken as read!

Sadly, the reality is that thae hooses’ll never be affordable tae somebody wi nae chance o a mortgage an there’s thoosans o faimlies in exackly that poseition richt noo. A lot o them are mums an dads jugglin twa, sometimes mair jobs each as weel as childcare, schuilruns an awhing else jist tae stey on tap o rent levels that are already mair than the mortgage repayments,  an are noo on the rise. How are they supposed tae save up for a deposit when they’ve tae haun ower sae much already tae whaever the hoose really belangs tae jist tae get by? Are we, as a society really happy haein created a situation whaur the already comfortable can sit back and watch their property investments mature ‘cause sae mony are left wi nae choice but tae throw their money at a hoose that’ll never be their hame? In a ceivilised society, dae we no aw deserve a hame tae caw oor ain?

Derrick McGuire is an ordinary workin man wha’d like tae gie his faimily a better hame.


Comments (20)

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  1. Ariel Killick says:

    Brilliant points and well made in a powerful and passionate piece – sincerely wishing you the best with the housing challenge… I live in a tiny, cramped bedsit on a freelance wage so well appreciate the battle. I’m also stoked because this is one of the first long articles in Scots in Bella or the National that I’ve made it right to the end of without mental exhaustion getting in the way and giving up… I can’t think of a Scots word for thank you but thank you 🙂

    1. Derrick says:

      Thanks Ariel.

  2. Ian Kirkwood says:

    When AGR (AnnualGround Rent) is collected, the speculative element of site prices is removed. Land banking ends. Ground becomes affordable and available. Homes become affordable to either buy or rent. Our children can be housed.

    Today we give site values to owners. But these are generated i) by tax investments in amenities or ii) natural features not produced by labour. AGR should be collected to fund public services and most other taxes ditched. http://www.facebook.com/AGRforScotland

  3. Gordon McShean says:

    I need to say that I’m comfortable reading and listening to Scots despite having had to leave Scotland in the 1950s. (My circumstances have been noted in these columns and in RETIRED TERRORIST, 2011, caused by the SNP’s failure to acknowledge that radical actions originated as Party strategies caused my exile – as did the exile of Robert Curran, the SNP National Secretary). In the 16 years prior to my exile I enjoyed connections with folks using many and varied forms of Scots – many through my family connections, North, South, East and West – and that travel around Scottish Youth Hostels (and a summer as a youth hostel warden) made my fascination with linguistic differentiation seem natural. It was ironic that my first place of exile abroad turned out to be Germany, still under military occupation (I had to avoid the British Zone!). In Glasgow I’d been very concerned about the housing problems caused by bombing (indeed, “concerned” is probably an understatement – as the health of many members of my family had been seriously impacted by having to live in overcrowded, damaged tenements). I found German housing conditions worse! And so Derrick McGuire’s pleas brings extra agony to me (whether stated in Scots or not!). Abroad, I was subsequently fortunate in finding sympathetic hospitality – political wise, health wise and housing wise – as my exile extended to America and then to New Zealand (I wrote about that in OPERATION NEW ZEALAND, 1976). But I was to discover further ironies in experiences concerning housing areas everywhere I went. The concern was so grievous that I took up related studies and ended up as a civic administrator of housing policies and a mediator of tenancy grievances in NZ. I’m retired now, but I continue to support concerns relating to the improvement of housing policies (Derrick, these matters need serious attention regardless of the tongue used to promote reform!). Lets hope that substantial improvements become possible soon – combined with more effective political independence programmes for everyone!

  4. Billy Kay says:

    Monie fowk wad be sweirt tae talk aboot sic a subjeck, sae meikle thanks tae Derrick for shawin us whit ye hae tae thole when ye’ve tint yer ain hame.

  5. Tammas Clark says:

    Mony thanks for yon, Derrick. Stories like yer ain are aw too common nooadays, but rarelins heard bi thaim as shoud be listenin.

    1. Derrick says:

      Aye, yer richt there, Tammas.

  6. Ian Kirkwood says:

    ‘Help to buy’ is a scheme to place further public funds into the hands of land speculators.

  7. Chris Danes says:


    1. Derrick says:

      Thank you, Chris.

  8. annabella says:

    I was born and brought up in a council scheme that wis always cited as one o the worst in Scotland, about 15 yrs ago we were telt about the massive regeneration programme that was coming. Our local councillors were falling over themselves wi promises of more than enough brand new houses for everyone living there and our future generations (social housing) as well as new homes for sale. Fast forward to present day, the regeneration programme is ongoing, there are hundreds of brand new houses, some belong to private housing associations where the rents have increased year on year above inflation levels. The majority are private houses for sale. The result being that some locals decanted tp other areas and chose not to return. Some stayed and were lucky enough to eventually get a housing association house. Many more however, including our young people have no choice but to private let, and while there are zero social rent houses here anymore, there’s no shortage of private lets because many people who bought and continue to buy the new houses do it with the sole purpose of renting them out. Could’ve, should’ve been so different.

    1. Ian Kirkwood says:

      Buy-tae-let is encouraged by the tax system as rewards site owners wi public value in the form o increased site values as free capital gains. Ye cannae blame fouk fir takin advantage o the wuy we choose tae organise wur country. But tenants as a result hae nae share in the value they create wi their tax investments in amenities. It’s they amenities that increase the site values. AGR is collectin the site values instead o taxes. Then abody taks a share oot o whit society maks thegither! http://www.facebook.com/AGRforScotland

      1. Derrick says:

        Twa sites I’ve worked on in the recent past illustrate the insanity o the system we hae the noo, Ian & Annabella.
        Ane, a development o twa & three bed hooses in the east neuk wi nuhing but foreshore atween them an the watter. The ither, a densely packed arrangement o apartments in Edinburgh. The Fifers hae the maist stunnin settin and views fae their well laid oot, socially rented, secure tenanted, supported & maintained hames while the Edinburghers are aw cheek by jowel wi their jam-packed, multi-storeyed, mortgaged tae the hilt, £250000-a-go twa bed flats an guess what? The “To Let” signs are already gaun up…
        There’s no enough room here tae look at how we got here, but tae me it’ll tak nuhing short o a revolution in housin provision tae begin tae sort oot this mess.

  9. Ally says:

    Smashin article, bit a sair read aa the same. Ah wis brocht up in a cooncil hoose. It wis braw fir ma braar an sister an me, aa atween 1 an 3 year auld at the time, an ma mithir wis oan her tod. Took near a year tae git wir nemmes tae the tap o the list, but ance we wir in it wis a godsend.
    Maist o thae hames ir private noo.

    Derrick’s nae wrang. A muckle project tae git a wheen o new hooses biggit fir aabdy, aa ower Scotland. Ma “scheme” wis a pod o thirty hooses aside an aulder wi village, so Ah growed up pallin aboot wi fermer’s bairns an horse trainers an that. Cooncil shemes dinnae hae tae be shite.

    Ah’m 26 noo, an the idea o fair hooses fir a fair price is totally at odds wi whits gaein oan in Scotland the noo.

    1. Derrick says:

      Thanks, Ally.

  10. John Tracey says:

    A moving article which also kept me engaged to the very end.
    I can’t claim to have the confidence to write in Scots but am so pleased to see so many doing this.
    We do need change and it would be wonderful if we could see our newly elected government, with support from all parties, take a bold step to stimulate our economy by placing social issues as priorities. Housing is a priority.
    I’m not ‘old’ but spent the first seven years living in a room and kitchen with shared toilet on the landing. Mum, Dad and four boys. Not ashamed of my situation but we must surely have much higher aspirations for all our people.

    1. Derrick says:

      Aye, John. We’re supposed tae mak things better as time gans on but the simple truth is we huvnae.

  11. Chic McGregor says:

    A wis a private landlaird fur a couple o years. A hid taen some o ma pension oot in cash fur fear o whit yon bagle Broon micht dae till it. A hid nae intenshun o beein a landlaird bit wi nae interest in the banks and naewhaur sensible tae pit yer money in the stock market dyae tae the Credit Crunch a jist let it sit there fur aboot a year. A year whaur, of coorse, it gaithered nae income tae owerset ma loss in earnings fae ma pension.

    So, somewhit reluctantly we decidet tae buy a wee cottage-like flat in Auchterarder tae let.

    Thir wis a richt wheen o paperwork, rules and regulations and inspections and repairs tae dae afore ye can stert an ye hae tae get credit and criminal checks done on ye tae.

    It wis a big learnin curve and time consumin and cost a bitty tae, bit we did it.

    Because A only wantit tae replace the amoont ma pension hud drappit, we only cherged a rent which wis aboot a hunner pund a month less than the ither identical flats in the terrace.

    We wir determined tae be guid landlairds, furby we wir nyae tae it, makin shair the place wis safe and attendin tae ony repairs immediately.

    We had nae bother wi the twa tenants we hid and felt we wir providin somethin useful as weel as replacin ma lost pension income.

    Hooivver when oor last tenant telt us she hid saved enough fur a deposit and wis buyin a wee flat and needed tae terminate, we decidet tae sell it even though there wis anither prospective tenant wantin tae rent it because there wis a dispute between oor neighbours and the owner’s association (which they hid refused tae jine). We were in the owner’s association so wur kind o like piggie in the middle rigairdin planned generic repairs/improvements disputes an we are too auld fur that kine o hassle so we decidet tae get oot.

    The ither landlairds were professional yins maistly but fae whit a could see they were fair mindit and wae guid intent.

    Onywie, A’m back tae wunderin whit tae dae next, micht jist pit it back intae a pension scheme noo Broon’s awa.

    1. Derrick says:

      Thanks for that, Chic. It’s guid tae hear ye did yer best an I ken there’s plenty guid landlords oot there – I ken a few masel an I dinnae want tae tar awbdy wi the same brush.
      In a wey tho, ye mak ma point for me. While you kept yer rent doon, maist factors & estate agents advise chargin the goin rate because nane ae ye’s are daein it oot o philanthropy, yer daein it tae mak money.
      It jist disnae sit richt wi me that hameless faimilies that are already struggling are looked upon as lucrative money-spinnin opportunities for them wi the means tae exploit the situation.
      Makin money’s important, essential even but no as essential as a stable secure hame.

  12. Danny McTavish says:

    Buy tae rent an th treatin o hooses as assets is an antisocial seickness in oor societie the day an needs tae be dinged doon.Commonties are bein braken up because o an ideaologie thit benefits naebodie thit isnae rich tae stairt wae.

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